Validating Fears While Instilling Hope

by Ian Francisco

This semester, I had the privilege of being a part of the New Bridges’ Immigrant and Refugee forum as an ICAD facilitator. With everyone so passionate to talk about their thoughts, views, and fears I held the belief that some valuable conversation may get lost in the shuffle.

The beginning of the day gave me the chance to listen to the successes within the community with regards to the immigrant and refugee community in Harrisonburg. Listening to the participants discuss what they considered to be successes was interesting because of I wasn’t aware of Harrisonburg’s previous, fantastic efforts to be welcoming to immigrants and refugees. Learning about them made me proud to go to school within this community. Before this event, I had no idea how much the city of Harrisonburg had accomplished in recent decades.

I think that’s one of the more rewarding things about being a facilitator. Not only are you helping people reach a consensus on the things they can do to help better a community or organization, but as a facilitator you are also exposed to these many different schools of thought. You learn from these people, they learn from one another, and we learn about the amazing work that is being done—work that means so much to certain people but can go unnoticed by JMU students like myself.

A challenge that is currently being faced by the people who want to help the immigrant and refugee population is simply answering the question on how to help them. This is especially difficult to answer with the increasing anxiety within these communities that continues to linger. Activists and organizers of Harrisonburg have put so many amazing programs in place and provided countless services to immigrants and refugees in the area for longer than I’ve even been alive. However, today they are faced with the realization that new trends in who is coming to the area and new social climates are creating new needs. New Bridges asked ICAD to help them address these needs by bringing various parties together and asking them to tell us what changes we need to making in order to address these needs. We also wanted to create an event that would allow these parties to voice their concerns as new realities create increasing uncertainty. These main goals really influenced how we structured the event, making sure to include time to reflect, to let anxieties be heard, and to brainstorm. This proved effective in not only creating a space where attendees were able to speak productively, but it was also helpful in avoiding the problem of progress being stifled by emotion.

There’s something to be said for the ability to balance validating feelings, while also instilling a hope that motivates proactivity. Getting to be a part of those first steps towards a solution feels absolutely invaluable to me.


Make Your Mark on Madison Leaves It’s Mark on ICAD

A collective reflection on the lessons learned while teaching facilitation.

ICAD would like to illustrate the various obstacles and moments of growth we experienced as a group during our MYMOM workshop. This was a significant facilitation for our affiliates because it was the first in which they were working independently, without Dr. Britt there for guidance.

Check out what each individual learned…

“Going into the facilitation we had created a thorough outline showcasing the evening’s plans, as well as highlighting the room’s set up and necessary materials. When we arrived at Festival prior to the workshop we began to notice that things were not going to go according to plan. First, the reserved room was not big enough for the setup we’d envisioned. We were going to create small-group tables for the participants in order to utilize the World Café model but ultimately had to rethink our plans. We managed to find the building coordinator and switch to a bigger room, that was conveniently right down the hall. This room did not have the proper tables either and we had to come together and think of a new plan for the room arrangement.

The second issue that we ran into was lack of supplies; we had planned on covering all tables with large sheets of white paper, but as we were unrolling the paper we ran out. We quickly thought on our feet and were able to gain access to a nearby club room that was able to provide us with paper. What we took away from this experience was that things do not always go according to plan and that you can never be too prepared, but in instances like this one it is best to come together and think on your feet. We were able to work together as a group and pull off a facilitation that was extremely beneficial for the MYMOM leaders. Although there were things we could’ve done to avoid these mishaps, we gained a glimpse into real world situations in which things might go awry. I’m proud to say that as a group we handled it perfectly.”

-Tagne Van de Wall

“In my experience, facilitations never go as planned. That does not mean that they carry out poorly–it means that you have to be prepared for whatever role is thrown your way.

In my case, I was given the role of facilitating Public Conversations Project, with a topic of cultural appropriation, right before our ‘meta-facilitation’ type workshop for Make Your Mark on Madison began. I have to admit that while I may have been willing and ready, I was extremely anxious. Had I known that this was going to be my role, I would’ve prepared by running different scenarios in my head.

As part of the demonstration, we had planned disturbances to show how to maneuver around challenging participants. I’d never really encountered any disturbances previously, so I found myself stumbling for the right (albeit pre-scripted) words in the moment. It was difficult to be an example of how to handle disruptions perfectly regardless of how much I had practiced and trained, especially considering I was given this role minutes before the event. In all my time as a facilitator, this was my most trying moment. Looking back, I recognize that this was personally more difficult for me because I was teaching others, not just facilitating. That pressure was difficult to shake. 

After  all was said and done, I found that I had grown since taking the training course last semester in aiding positive conversation. I have to say that it went pretty well. Mostly because my team so encouraging and reassuring.

With an amazing team, confidence, and preparation, you will come out with an immense amount of growth in your communication skills and a newfound appreciation for positive, productive conversation.”

-Anna Stackhouse

“Our MYMOM facilitation was very unique in the sense that we were not facilitating for a specific topic. Previously, we’d discuss very specific issues that applied to the groups we were facilitating for. However, for MYMOM we were trying to teach them how to use different models of facilitation. So we decided to use vaguer questions such as “What makes a good question?” and “What is closure?”. While these are good hypothetical questions that helped us demonstrate how to best create dialogue in certain facilitation models, their abstract nature made it difficult to get participants to engage. The lack of responses made it tough to highlight what certain models have to offer. However, it was still a good learning experience as it challenged me to adjust throughout the facilitation and adapt to the conversation–adapting in a way that clarified what we were asking of the attendees, so that they were more willing to participate.

This experience exposed us to the difficulty of training within your field of expertise, specifically the difficulty of training while doing. Our MYMOM facilitation was overall a great success and it taught me a lot about how to best teach facilitation models to others.”

-Tyler Burgess


Don’t know what MYMOM is? Check them out here